Fin-Telligence: Striped Bass

Stripers may be the most popular saltwater gamefish in the country. Striped bass (Morone saxatilis) are voracious — and pretty indiscriminate — predators.

When you combine their hard-striking eating habits with their hefty average size, stripers are a damn fun fish to catch. And that’s why reelers chase these so-called rockfish up and down the Eastern Seaboard, all along the West Coast, and even in landlocked freshwater. 

Where are they?

Stripers are native to the Atlantic Seaboard, where they make yearly fall runs from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Northeast, south to Florida and the Gulf Coast, and back again in the spring. In the late 1800s they were introduced to the West Coast, where they flourish and run between California and Washington.

These highly-migratory fish even make their ways into brackish and freshwater. Some populations became landlocked in freshwater systems when impediments like dams prevented them from returning to saltwater. As such, IGFA recognizes both saltwater and landlocked records for stripers.

More recently, since they are highly-prized by reelers, states have stocked them. They can now be found as for north and inland as North Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana. Of course, as predatory as they are, non-native striped bass make quite an impact on the populations of smaller species in the fisheries where they’ve been stocked.

What do they eat?

Striped bass generally go after fish, like alewives and menhaden, eels, and clams. But if it swims, and it’s smaller, a striper will probably try and eat it.

Carp and Striped Bass feed in Lake Mead, Nevada

When running, a striped bass needs to eat a lot in order to maintain its metabolism, especially in cooler waters. This makes them aggressive and opportunistic, which is awesome for reelers — but not so lucky for a crab, lobster, or squid that gets in the way of a running striper.

How big do they get?

Striped bass are by no means small fish. Adults average 24 to 36 inches (60 to 90 centimeters) but can reach lengths of well over 60 inches. The average weight for adult stripers in this slot runs 10 to 20 pounds. As you can guess, three scrappy feet and 20 angry pounds of scrappy rockfish on the end of your line can make for a pretty good day.

@MorganMattioli with a monster striper. Photo by: @GregMattioli

As noted above, different records are maintained for saltwater and landlocked striped bass. The current IGFA all-tackle record for a saltwater striper belongs to Gregory Myerson, who caught his 81.88-pound (37.14 kg) monster in 2011, on Long Island Sound near Westbrook, Connecticut. Myerson’s fish toppled a 78-pound record that was held by Albert McReynolds for 29 years.

James Bramlett caught the record landlocked striper on the Black Warrior River in Alabama. His IGFA all-tackle beast weighed in at 69 pounds, 9 ounces (31.55 kg).

Freshly caught striped bass being prepared for dinner.

How do they taste?

Striped bass is a tasty species that has been an important food source for as long as reelers have fished for them. They have a mild, flaky flesh when cooked making striper a good choice for anything from fish tacos to cioppino.

Even with adaptability and fast reproductive rate,  but they are a species of concern in saltwater environments and catch and release should be practiced for conservation efforts. In freshwater environments, as with any large predatory fish, folks should be concerned about mercury levels and other toxins when considering striper for supper.

Striped bass farming is now common. It’s a great alternative to eating wild-caught stripers. You get a fresh product that tastes delicious, and you can put the striper you just caught back in the water to get even bigger.

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